McClaughry: The Legislature’s new climate-driven priorities

By John McClaughry

The battle lines have been drawn on the state’s political landscape, and they are somewhat different than in previous years.

Traditionally, Democratic legislators have favored taxing and spending to benefit members of their electoral coalition, such as unionized workers, enviromentalists, lower income families and disadvantaged groups.

In recent years, Democrats and Progressives have become enthusiastic supporters of using government power to make some people bestow benefits on other people, at no cost to taxpayers. The perennial example of such issues is increasing the minimum wage, whereby employers are required to pay more money to entry-level workers. But the emerging story of the 2020 Legislature is not just the familiar battle over such traditional Democratic issues, but a contest with Republican Gov. Phil Scott over three measures that our “climate change” activists believe are Vermont’s vital contributions to the continuation of human life on the planet.

John McClaughry

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Upon his election in 2016, Gov. Scott pledged to make Vermonters shoulder their share of the Paris Agreement that newly-elected President Donald Trump vowed to pull the U.S. out of, and did. In 2017 Scott named a Climate Action Commission to chart a path toward that goal. But Scott had also repeatedly declared he would veto a carbon tax. Thus his commission’s November 2017 report, to the dismay of many of its members, stopped short of anything that momentous, and produced few if any sweeping recommendations.

Now the climate change movement is highly energized by its growing outrage over Trump’s unwillingness to even pay lip service to their great cause, and what they view as Scott’s accommodating verbiage but no meaningful action to drive down Vermont’s CO2 emissions to what some would see as utterly fantastic levels — 26% below the 2005 level by 2025, and 80% below by 2050.

The climate change movement sees a legislature overwhelmingly controlled by their political friends: the House 102-43 Democratic /Progressive (plus five independents) and the Senate 24-6. Its activists are tired of waiting for bold action. The governor hasn’t given them any, and they demand the Legislature give them drastic action now.

Here’s their program. First, put Vermont into the Transportation and Climate Initiative. This is a northeastern multistate coalition that will set region-wide CO2 emission caps. Then it will drive emissions below those caps by making motorists pay increasingly higher prices for gasoline and on-road diesel fuels at the pump. Some of the $56 billion in TCI revenues (from 11 states, over 10 years) will be sent back to state governments to subsidize electric vehicles, public transportation, passenger rail, and bike paths, and to devise new land use controls to prevent people from living beyond cycling or walking distance from compact town centers.

Second, enact the Global Warming Solutions Act. This astonishing legislation would convert Vermont’s 2006 “goals” for reducing CO2 emissions into the much stricter and mandated requirements noted above, create a “climate supergovernment” within state government, task state agencies to adopt all rules they find necessary to achieve the supergovernment’s (arbitrary) emission reductions — without a vote by elected legislators — and authorize anybody to sue the state for not moving far enough and fast enough.

Third, and less visible, inject a “defeat climate change” permit criterion into the emerging rewrite of Act 250, the 50-year-old planning and development act. This will likely require that every permit application will have to show that the development is “carbon neutral,” locates in a designated urban growth center (like Greater Burlington), makes maximum use of public transportation, and who knows what else.

Last week the “social justice” component of the state’s left-wing coalition jumped into the Act 250 issue, demanding that no permit be issued unless, in addition to meeting a host of CO2 emissions conditions, the applicant has made special provisions for the poor and minority groups that supposedly have suffered from previous development.

Our Legislature has always faced and dealt with conventional issues like taxation, regulation, labor law, highways, criminal justice, education, and health and welfare programs. Some have found the results unsatisfactory, but rarely are the Legislature and governor’s products life-threatening for the future of the state.

Now suppose the Legislature enacts these three measures, conceived and promoted by people who are, whether sincerely or cynically, obsessed with the Menace of Climate Change. Suppose the people install a Progressive climate warrior as governor next year to carry out these measures.

What would Vermont’s economy look like in five years? Its attractiveness to small and large taxpaying businesses? Its employment opportunities? Its transportation system? Its ability to service its debt load, including its $4.5 billion pension fund liabilities?

True, in a Green Police State there will be more openings for climate regulators, lawyers, electric car servicers, bus drivers, insulation contractors, and solar panel installers. But beyond that?

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Edward Kimmel and John McClaughry

13 thoughts on “McClaughry: The Legislature’s new climate-driven priorities

  1. Can’t we just sacrifice those over zealous warming zelot legislators to the weather volcano????
    All in favor say Aye…and good info Willem as always.

  2. All this agonizing in Montpelier is absolutely nuts.
    Stop catering to wind, solar and heat pump folks.
    They are not experienced energy systems analysts.

    They offer programs that do not work, increase Vermont’s CO2
    They are telling you lies about Air Source Heat Pumps, which DO NOT save any money, and reduce just a little CO2 AT HIGH COST PER METRIC TON
    http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/cost-savings-of-air-source-heat-pumps-are-negative-in-vermont

    A big part of the CO2 solution for Vermont could be Canadian electricity

    MUCH MORE CLEAN, NEAR-ZERO CO2 HYDRO ELECTRICITY FROM CANADA

    NE should have much more of clean (no particulates, etc.), near-zero-CO2 hydro electricity from Canada, which is eager to sell to us at a low c/kWh. GMP is buying about 1.2 million MWh/y of HQ electricity at about 5.7 c/kWh, under a recent 20-y contract.

    However, greedy, subsidy-seeking, renewable energy entities in Vermont, working in cahoots with legislators and career bureaucrats, have been keeping it out for years.

    They want electricity production, mostly heavily subsidized, wind and solar, done the home-grown, expensive way.
    That electricity is made to LOOK less expensive by subsidies and cost shifting, but if subsidies and cost shifting are included, it would be very expensive. See Appendix.

    A standard 1000 MW transmission line from Quebec to the Vermont border, about $1.5 billion, mostly paid for by Canada, could provide about 4.5 billion kWh/y of very clean, near-zero CO2, no particulate pollution, STEADY, 98% hydro-electricity, from Hydro Quebec, for about 6.5 c/kWh, under a 20-y contract.

    The price would be adjusted based on at NE grid wholesale prices, which have been about 5 c/kWh starting in 2009, 11 years. It is the far beyond rational for Vermont to not buy more H-Q electricity.

  3. Addition to above ASHP comment.

    Capital and Annual Operating Costs Result in an Overall Annual Loss

    CADMUS and VT-DPS concluded, on average, an owner invested $4500 in an ASHP (less with subsidies), but had average energy cost savings of about $200/y; some had more savings than others.

    Amortizing $4500/ASHP at 5%/y for 15 years (the factory warrantee is for 10 years), the annual payments would be $427.03/y.
    https://www.myamortizationchart.com

    In addition, there would be annual costs for scheduled and unscheduled service calls ($100+/call), likely involving parts and labor, plus annual costs for maintenance contracts ($100+/contract).

    Those costs would be in addition to amortizing the cost of the traditional heating system investment over 15 years, plus the annual cost of service calls, likely involving parts and labor, and annual cost of maintenance contracts.

    Independent energy systems engineers predicted installing ASHPs in energy-hog houses would result in an annual loss to owners, if overall costs of having two heating systems were accounted for, some years ago, but they were ignored.

    • Addition to above ASHP comment

      CO2 Reduction with ASHPs is Very Expensive

      The below CO2 calculations, source energy basis, are for a typical Vermont house with an oil-fired traditional system and one ASHP. See table 5A.

      100% Heat from Traditional Systems
      – CO2 from fuel oil was 14798 lb CO2/y.

      39% Heat from ASHPs, 61% Heat from Traditional Systems
      – CO2 from ASHPs and fuel oil was 10656 lb/y, for a reduction of 4142 lb/y
      – CO2 reduction cost was $4500 / (4142 lb/y x 15 years) = $0.0724/lb, or $145/US ton, or $160/metric ton; capital cost basis; excludes all other costs.
      – CO2 reduction cost was $427.03/y / 4142 lb/y = $0.1031/lb, or $206/US ton, or $227/metric ton; amortization basis; excludes service and maintenance costs.

      100% Heat from ASHPs
      – CO2 from ASHPs was 6996 lb/y, for a reduction of 7802 lb/y
      – CO2 reduction cost was $20000 / (7802 lb/y x 15 years) = $0.1709/lb, or $342/US ton, or $377/ metric ton; capital cost basis; excludes all other costs.
      – CO2 reduction cost was $1897.91/y / 7802 lb/y = $0.2432/lb, or $486/US ton, or $536/metric ton; amortization basis; excludes service and maintenance costs.

      Not only are owners with ASHPs in their energy-hog houses losing money each year, on an overall basis, but the CO2 reduction costs/metric ton for 100% heat from ASHPs are outrageously high, because with 100% heat from ASHPs, they have to do hard work on the cold side of the temperature range, i.e., low COPs, in cold climates.

      Passivhaus-style buildings are an attractive alternative over energy-hog buildings, on a lifetime basis.

  4. CADMUS SURVEY OF HOUSES WITH ASHPs

    CADMUS, an energy consultant hired by the Vermont Department of Public Service, performed a survey of 77 ASHPs at 65 sites in Vermont.
    https://publicservice.vermont.gov/sites/dps/files/documents/2017%20Evaluation%20of%20Cold%20Climate%20Heat%20Pumps%20in%20Vermont.pdf

    Heat from Traditional Systems and ASHPs

    CADMUS calculated the total season heat to buildings at an average of 92 million Btu per site

    – Space heat to the sites was 65 x 92 million Btu/site = 5,980 million Btu from all fuels. See Note, and see URL, page 22
    – Space heat provided by ASHPs was 77 x 21.4 million Btu/ASHP = 1,648 million Btu. See URL, page 21
    – Traditional systems provided 5980 – 1648 = 4,332 million Btu, or 4332/5980 = 72% of the total space heat.

    No wonder the energy cost savings were an average of about $200/ASHP per year, instead of the $1200/y to $1800/y bandied about on websites of ASHP promoters. See URLs.

    NOTE: Before ASHPs, the traditional systems provided all space heat and all DHW. ASHPs typically provide only space heat. The CADMUS report stated it obtained heat to buildings primarily from owner fuel and electric bills. That means the 92 million Btu/site likely included DHW. The CADMUS report does not clearly state, if the 5,980 million Btu includes DHW, which is about 15% of the total. If DHW is deducted, the adjusted heat to sites would be 5,083 million Btu, and the traditional systems, after ASHPs, would provide 5083 – 1648 = 3,435 million Btu, or 3435/5083 = 68% of the total space heat, which would be close to the estimate of 61% from the analysis method used in this article. See Appendix 2.

  5. There was a program on PBS about global warming and they took many ice cores and rock formations. It was seen that 350 million years ago, the water level was 60 feet higher. NO HUMANS.

    I’ve been in WY many times at 6,000 ft. Near rock cliffs I’ve picked up rocks that had sea shells in them. Can be a guide.

    So much for this stupid global warming. The Earth is a living breathing pulsating thing (globe), being CYCLES (are you listening stupid globalists?). Get a life and research.

    The sun activity has been relatively dormant and goes through 11 year cycles. It’s starting on another active cycle. Also there’s many solar activities that hit the Earth. Northern Lights are also becoming more active and seen in the lower latitudes. Space dot com has many articles and visuals.

    It’s an excuse for the school kids with manufactured signs to protest something they don’t know nothing about. Courtesy of the school system and their Goebbels instructors at taxpayer expense.

    • It was cool watching the data collection in that PBS documentary. But the assumptions made from that data were distorted, especially with regard to the amount of CO2 created by human fossil fuel consumption. While they showed the size of the pile of charcoal representative of what human activity creates annually, they didn’t show the size of that pile in relation to the size of the pile from naturally occurring CO2.

      Keep in mind that CO2 is a trace gas accounting for 1/400ths of a percent of the earth’s atmosphere (400 parts per 1,000,000) – as opposed to O2 (oxygen) which accounts for 21% of the earth’s atmosphere, or 8400 times that of CO2.

      They also incorrectly characterized CO2 as a ‘greenhouse gas’. CO2 is heavier than air. It stays relatively low in the atmosphere. While it does absorb more heat in its molecular structure than air, it does not create an envelope trapping heat as the term ‘greenhouse’ implies.

      And while the PBS show discussed the Milankovitch cycles (the earth’s orbit variations around the sun, tilt of the earth’s axis and its ‘wobble’), it conveniently discounted those features and the variations in solar output, as it claimed human activity to be the primary factor in climate change.

      But just think of the cost of that PPS production. A lot of people are spending a lot of time and money – not just doing the research, but making the TV shows. As Rahm Emanuel once said, ‘never let a serious crises go to waste’.

  6. Talk about a totalitarian state. Vermont would no longer be in the “Democracy Zone.” The citizens would be told where to live, what to live in, where to work, what to drive, where to drive, and be happy content people. The progs have a euphoric vision of a socialistic Utopia. My vision is a dead economy with a broken, burned out society, tantamount to a post apocalyptic world. The progs idea is to finance their dream in ten years but what I see will happen in less. Years ago, about the year 2000, there was a buzzword on the lips of nearly everyone, “multi-tasking”. It was going to save companies millions of dollars annually. Then CEOs wanted to do the same with their employees. Only problem was, they didn’t have computers with the capacity to multi-task without slowing to a snail’s pace, and humans aren’t efficient at multi-tasking. In the same way, progs are inefficient. They see great ideas without any solid methods of realizing them. They throw out their buzzword solutions but don’t have the resource capacities to support them. One last point. How do progs think they will get the population to just drop their lives, jobs, and homes to accommodate socialistic demands? The progs may no longer believe in the State’s Constitutional Rights, but the people won’t roll over like a bunch of mindless mushrooms. Vermont is a tough place to live in (as it is today) and trying to herd them with a socialist whip will light a fire storm. And this brings the whole wagon full of manure, full circle. Progs can’t create their socialistic Utopia as long as citizens own guns. What’s number two on their agenda? Gun laws! If they fail to take away guns then they fail to take away Democracy in VT. It’s plain and simple, no guns, socialist whips, no Democracy, dead VT.

  7. Our “climate change” activists believe Vermont’s ” vital ” contributions to the continuation
    of human life on the planet. Give me a break.

    Vermont with approximately 9.6K sq mi land and a population 626K isn’t even a dot in the
    real-world when it comes to CO2 & hoax climate change, another feel-good agenda.

    Maybe these activists might want to look towards China, Russia, India just to name a few
    and what about California ” Smog Capital ” of the us, if they believe climate change is a
    real phenomenon.

    These activists should look growing more trees, one tree will produce enough O2 for 18
    people for a year or 4 trees will make enough O2 equal to the CO2 from one auto and trees
    just grow for free.

    Want to save the planet, grow a tree.

    • Vermont is small, California is large, Chicago is large. When we worried about trees on Mt Mansfield, we correctly looked to coal electric from the north central states. We remember the incredible smogs from Los Angelos – that just drifts east dropping it’s crud as it drifts toward us.

      How about we pass laws in Montpeculiar that dictate to our western neighbors that THEY must do all the things Vermonters are supposed to do.

      Isn’t C02 good and necessary for trees and living plants?

  8. Can’t understand all this fuss about the minimum wage. Suggest folks try to hire someone for less that $20/hr for doing the most menial yard work like stacking wood or taking leaves for example.

    • Keep in mind that raising the minimum wage has a ripple effect. Not only do the 5% of workers affected receive the increase, the wages of the other 95% increase too. So, not only will you pay 25/hr, instead of $20/hr, to have your wood stacked, you’ll pay more for groceries and utiltities, plumbers, electricians, insurance agents and…., oh, did I forget government employees, healthcare workers and teachers. They’re the one’s always complaining they make less than everyone else…and they account for 40% of Vermont’s workforce. And then your taxes (especially your property taxes) will increase to pay for those services too.

      Are you starting to get the picture?

      • I can only hope everyone begins to realize that this is what ‘democratic socialism’ looks like. It’s a ‘mobacracy’. It’s what the Founders cautioned us about and why the U.S. Constitution created a Republic, and why Benj. Franklin warned that it “… can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other”.

        What’s the end result of this despotism? Take a look at Venezuela.

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